Watch This Space: Designing, Defending and Sharing Public Spaces by Hadley Dyer and Marc Ngui. Kids Can Press. 2010. Copy provided by publisher. Online teacher resources.
About: The history and value of public spaces.
The Good: A variety of information, colorfully illustrated with a lot of details, explains what public space is; its value; its multiple uses; and what teens and kids can do for the promotion of public space.
Public space is something that, for many people (not just kids) simply "is." There is a park; there is a sidewalk; there is a bridge with graffiti. Why do we have parks? How long have people had parks? What are some of the purposes public spaces serve? Art, relaxation, escape, sports, cultural events, health. Even design is addressed, along with an exercise on "how to build it" if you were designing a park.
Reading this as budgets are being slashed and cut right and left made me a bit depressed, in all honesty. Many of the concepts, ideas and suggestions are based on public funds and funding. As public money is cut back, the advertisements that Dyer deplores will only increase. While Dyer does not address the connection between mental illness and homelessness (see here and here) she does address other underlying causes of homelessness (such as abuse and addiction); as funding for social programs that address such issues get cut, it's not hard to speculate that the rates of homelessness will increase.
To be glass half full girl, Watch This Space offers important, constructive ideas about getting involved. It encourages and promotes grassroots efforts, which will be all the more valuable as funding goes away. In addition to these terrific ideas and suggestions (such as involvement in library teen advisory groups and government youth commissions), I would have liked Watch This Space to have included concrete resources (links to websites as well as books) about teen advocacy. Librarians, teachers, and parents can put together this information (including local resources) for their students and kids.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
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